Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs care and attention to keep you on the ball for as long as possible, says Dr Roger Henderson.
One of the most common phrases I seem to hear in my surgery is 'I'm worried about my memory Doctor'. To help keep your mind as sharp as possible, here are some simple memory boosters that everyone will benefit from.
1. Train your brain
Keeping mentally active is vital for maintaining the connections between brain cells. Just like our muscles, our brains benefit from being challenged and we should all 'use it', rather than risk 'losing it'. Try stimulating your brain every day with a some kind of mental challenge, whether that be by completing a traditional puzzle such as crosswords or Sudoku, or by playing memory-training game- the likes of which are available on the app store.
2. Try a supplement
There are many supplements that can help keep our brains healthy. A daily multivitamin is a good starting point, while folic acid, meanwhile, may help to slow age-related memory decline. B vitamins are needed for energy production in brain cells and improve clarity of thought, while phosphatidylserine helps to improve general brain function.
3. Exercise regularly
Physical activity helps to protect your brain from the mental decline that can happen in healthy people as they age. Exercise encourages the release of chemicals that keep brain cells healthy, encourage the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and improves the survival of new brain cells. Exercise also helps lower the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other circulatory problems: all of which can contribute to memory loss. Plus, it improves our mood, helps us sleep and reduces stress and anxiety – which can cause memory loss.
4. Watch what you eat
Try to 'taste the rainbow' every day as colourful fruits and vegetables provide antioxidant nutrients that are believed to slow age-related changes in body cells, including the brain. Eating oily fish, such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, which are rich in omega 3 fats can also help protect brain function. Reduce the amount of sugar you consume, as eating too much can damage the small and large vessels in the brain, which decreases blood and nutrient flow to brain cells.
5. Get enough sleep
Our brain cells repair themselves and store information when we sleep, so a lack of sleep disrupts this important function and impairs our ability to focus and learn efficiently. Sleep is also vital to consolidate a memory (make it stick) so that it can be recalled in the future, so aim for at least 7 hours of constant sleep per night.